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Alumni News

Editors: Jeanne Johnson, Philip Tang, A&S '95
Contributing Writer: Lew Diuguid, SAIS '63


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What Makes a Celebrity Chef
Professor Mom
Shelf Life
Secret Service Doc
Singing for a Cause
The Big Question in Bioethics
The Writer's Life
In the News
Alumni Events
California Alumni Tip the Admission Scales

Juliette Rossant, A&S '84 (MA)
Recipe for a Super Chef

Juliette Rossant was fired upon in an Azeri rescue helicopter over war-torn Azerbaijan. She witnessed firsthand an attack on the Russian White House during a failed coup in 1993. As a journalist, she has covered politics, business, and travel. But it was her love of food and the growing phenomenon of celebrity chefs that inspired her to write Super Chef (Simon & Schuster, 2004), her new book about six culinary superstars — think Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Palmer — and the making of their restaurant empires.

Growing up, Rossant had "early experiences with good food." Family trips to Guatemala, Italy, and France broadened her palate. And her parents encouraged experimentation with new foods by creating competition between their children. "Who will try the sautéed fungus first?" she remembers them asking.

Photo Illustration by Kathy Vitarelli A poet at age 10, Rossant had two of her works published in a literary magazine by the time she was 14. After high school, she attended Dartmouth, where she studied classical Greek archaeology and co-founded The Stonefence Review, a literary and art magazine. Afterward, she studied philosophy at Columbia and poetry at Berkeley, and eventually enrolled in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she received a master's degree in creative writing.

In 1987, Rossant's interest in archaeology took her to Turkey, where she initially taught English to high school students to pay bills. Compelled by the economic and political upheaval in the pre-Gulf War Middle East, Rossant became a freelance journalist for several English-language publications in the region. By the end of her first year in Turkey, she had interviewed then-President Turgut Özal, the governor of Turkey's Central Bank, and the British ambassador.

Rossant left Istanbul in 1992 and worked in Moscow and Paris for Business Week before returning to New York, where she began reporting for Forbes. There, an editor tapped her to write a new feature on celebrity chefs in the magazine's first annual "Celebrity 100" issue. Rossant, who had written about food and travel for a number of hospitality magazines overseas, realized that her experience in business writing made her uniquely suited to interview such accomplished chefs. "I had the food background to appreciate them as chefs, and I also had the business background to appreciate their entrepreneurship," she says. "Just imagine talking to someone who hasn't gone to school since 14, yet has become a brilliant chef — and who then discovers that he or she has tremendous business savvy," says Rossant."That's Wolfgang Puck's story, and you'll find similar ones for Charlie Palmer, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Todd English, and Tom Colicchio."

Rossant spent two to three months shadowing each chef. Over time, she developed a "culinary" approach to writing her book: "I arranged each profile chapter as much as I could as an appetizer, main course, and dessert — a snapshot event, their adventure stories, and a final snapshot event or interview."

Rossant's research gave her access to the chefs' inner circles. "The best chefs surround themselves with the best people," she says, recounting scores of other VIPs — from top Hollywood talent agents to business managers for Michael Jordan and Andre Agassi to architects, interior designers, bankers, lawyers, and doctors — that she interviewed in the process.

"The food business is very personal," she explains. "That's why I settled on personal profiles that chronicled exciting business adventures rather than focusing on dry business issues."

The author relied heavily on her own family and friends during the process, managing to both write her book and care for her newborn son. Sometimes, she did both: "My son was a great litmus test for interviewees. I took him whenever possible to face-to-face interviews, especially a first interview with a chef. Watching any adult react to a child is a revelation in character."

Rossant is helping her son develop his own sense of taste. "He ate his first adult lunch and dinner in fine dining restaurants, all in one glorious day in Northern California: cranberry sorbet from Michael Mina at Aqua in San Francisco and a lamb bric at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg."

In fact, Rossant's desire to feed her son only "healthy, great food" has inspired some ideas for future books. "Food is at times hardly separable from nurturing, and being a mother is the most important thing to me — a great strength now in my writing."
Philip Tang, A&S '95

Julie Smiddy, A&S '79
Professor Mom

Some people might call Julie Smiddy a stay-at-home mom. But she actually home schools her eight children so that no one in the family, including her, has to stay at home — or any other particular place, for that matter. Though home-based, she wants to offer her children the freedom to learn at their own pace, without being tied to constrictive locations or schedules. After 15 years of home schooling, she says, "I don't regret even a day of it."

The former Julie Fradel got to know her husband, William Smiddy, A&S '80, Med '83, when they both joined the Hopkins swim team in 1976; they married in December of 1978.

Julie and William Smiddy (center) surrounded by their children (clockwise from right) Robert, 20; Rebecca, 15; Samuel, 9; Clara, 8; Rose, 5; Susan, 13; Andrew, 11; and Matthew, 17.

After graduating, she worked as a medical administrator for the Army, fulfilling her ROTC scholarship commitment. When kids came along, she and William decided on home schooling because the structured schedule of a regular school would prevent the children from spending much time with their father, an ophthalmologist and researcher who often travels to present research at conferences.

There were religious reasons as well. "My top priority in bringing up my children is that they share our beliefs as Christians," says Smiddy. "I want them to have strong moral values, and I believe my husband and I are best equipped to pass these standards on to our children."

Their oldest son, Robert, 20, attends Florida International University. Because of the flexibility of home schooling, he was able to earn all of the credit hours necessary for a music degree before he even earned his high school diploma. Like each of the Smiddy children, Robert had an education custom-designed by his parents to accommodate his interests, which include working alongside his father to conduct ophthalmology research.

"It's a constant process of evaluation," says Julie Smiddy. "I consider each child's strengths, weaknesses, and interests." Smiddy was a natural science major at Hopkins, and she credits her Hopkins education with helping to refine her approach to education. "Hopkins taught me to think at a higher level," she says. "And that's what I want to pass on to my children — the idea that they don't have to think like everyone else."
Jeanne Johnson

Shelf Life

The Buying of the President 2004, by Charles Lewis, SAIS '77, Perennial (2004).

This unsparing, despairing account, written by the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, finds democracy ever in deficit to big bucks. The enormity and venality of all candidates' fund-raising engenders an unrequited need to read of some balancing selfless act.

Psych ER: Psychiatric Patients Come to the Emergency Room, by Rene J. Muller, A&S '75 (PhD), Analytic Press (2003).

After evaluating 2,000 such patients in Baltimore, Dr. Muller has written up 26 contributions to pathography — often riveting "stories about what it means to be ill." Drugs figure large, as does chicanery in quest of a free bed.

529 & Other College Savings Plans for Dummies, by Margaret A. Munro, A&S '91, Wiley (2004).

A tax consultant and titan of tuition details all that is needed and newly available to lay in funds to educate a generation that faces unprecedented outlays for a degree of protection against being dummies.
Lew Diuguid, SAIS '63

Nelson Tang, A&S '90
Protecting Those Who Protect the President

On a spring day in Beltsville, Maryland, the Secret Service practices several threatening scenarios in a movie set-like town. A presidential limousine, several black Suburbans, a black van, and clusters of serious-looking people in dark clothes and sunglasses all wait to undergo a simulated attack on a presidential motorcade. A pyrotechnics expert with Disney movie-making experience will simulate rocket explosions, while a camera crew films it all for a National Geographic documentary.

"It looks like we get to blow something up today," says Nelson Tang, medical director of the U.S. Secret Service and director of Johns Hopkins' Division of Special Operations in the Department of Emergency Medicine. As the motorcade approaches, a loud explosion sends flames, smoke, and heat billowing into the air. Following carefully practiced protocols, the limousine carrying the "protectee" speeds off safely.

On the set with the Secret Service. "This is where I play," says Tang. When he isn't teaching emergency medicine at Hopkins, Tang often works at this Secret Service training complex, which includes mock towns, a firing range, various roads on which to practice "elusive" maneuvers, the front half of an Air Force One-style plane to simulate arrivals and departures, and a medical center. Here Tang provides advanced training for selected agents, conducts first-responder medical training for all personnel, and treats agents for illness and injury. "This is where I play," says Tang, "but it's only fun when it's purposeful make believe." In real situations, Tang is responsible for overseeing the treatment of agents and government officials for anything from routine training mishaps to injuries from terrorist attacks.

He also travels overseas to provide medical care for past presidents or other officials in places such as Africa or Southeast Asia — former President Jimmy Carter is the most frequent flier — and supervises the medical care of agents who are assigned to domestic events, such as the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. It's a fitting role for someone who, as he puts it, "likes planning and being in strange and unusual environments.

"Besides medicine, I've had a lifelong interest in law enforcement," Tang explains. "Here, I get to do both."

After graduating from Hopkins with a biology degree in 1990, Tang attended medical school at New York University and returned to Hopkins in 1994 for his emergency medicine residency. He was named chief resident and has occasionally served as a consultant for films such as Enemy of the State and the television series Homicide. In 1997, Tang joined the Johns Hopkins Hospital's emergency medicine faculty, where he became the disaster control physician and also medical director of the LIFELINE Critical Care Transport Program, which transports critically ill patients to and from Hopkins via ambulance, helicopter, and jet aircraft.

Tang with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. In 1999, the Secret Service approached Hopkins for help with medical care and training and developed a program with Tang as its head. In 2002, partly to unify the many programs Tang was involved with, the Division of Special Operations was created within Hopkins' Department of Emergency Medicine, with Tang as the first director of the program.

Because of the Hopkins/Secret Service collaboration, other Hopkins physicians sometimes join medical teams headed by Tang for special Secret Service trips and events.

Next on his agenda? Tang will provide medical support for the Secret Service during the G8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, this month. So when President George W. Bush and leaders from the world's other leading industrial democracies arrive, Tang and his Secret Service colleagues will be on hand to make sure all are safe and sound. —JJ

Kevin Kilner, A&S '80
A Modern Major Midfielder Turned Actor

Kevin Kilner, a lacrosse player turned acclaimed Broadway and Hollywood actor, hasn't sung since a sixth-grade performance of The Wind in the Willows. Yet he has agreed to undertake three months of singing lessons, interrupt his work schedule in Los Angeles, and drive cross-country to star in a summertime production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, all because of friendships forged in Hopkins lacrosse.

Kilner, on guard.
Photo by Craig Terkowitz
Kilner and others who played for legendary Hopkins lacrosse coach Henry (Chic) Ciccarone, A&S '62, are organizing the July 10 performance of Pirates at Baltimore's Young Victorian Theatre Company. The performance will benefit the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, named for their beloved coach, who died from a heart attack in 1988.

Kilner was a defensive midfielder on the Ciccarone-coached teams of 1978-80, which won three straight NCAA championships. While a lacrosse player, he kept his acting aspirations to himself, but after a brief career in banking, he deposited himself into the theater in 1985.

Kilner won rave reviews playing The Gentleman Caller alongside Calista Flockhart and Julie Harris in the 50th anniversary Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie in 1994; starred in the CBS sitcom Almost Perfect and the sci-fi series Earth, The Final Conflict; and created the role of Tom in Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Dinner with Friends, in 2000. Kilner's wife, actress Jordan Baker, created the role of "C" in Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Three Tall Women.

"Playing lacrosse for Henry Ciccarone ws the best class I ever took at Johns Hopkins," says Kilner. Former lacrosse managers and players came together in Pirates to honor their former coach. Team manager Brian S. Goodman, A&S '79, now a Baltimore lawyer, has managed the Young Vic since he was a Hopkins student. It was he who introduced both Ciccarone and Kilner to Gilbert and Sullivan musicals; five years ago, when Kilner was a celebrity guest at a Ciccarone Center fund-raiser, Goodman began lobbying him to consider playing the Pirate King. The recruitment strategy worked: Kilner will take the stage in early July in the 400-seat theater of Baltimore's Bryn Mawr School.

Another Hopkins alumnus, Roger S. Blumenthal, A&S '81, will take part in the fund-raiser as well. Blumenthal is a physician who now directs the Ciccarone Center, which is dedicated to the global assessment of all the factors contributing to heart disease. "I'm very proud that the name 'Ciccarone' is attached to the cardiology research our group supports around the world," says Blumenthal.

As he prepares to become the Pirate King, Kilner recalls Chic's "incredible generosity" toward his players and friends. "He never, ever hesitated to help somebody," he says. "Chic taught me the important life lesson that any young person needs to learn. He told his players that however you envision achieving your goals, your life is most assuredly going to turn out completely differently-and you either make a choice to hang in there and adapt, or you don't.

"Playing lacrosse for Henry Ciccarone was the best class I ever took at Johns Hopkins," Kilner continues. "The best life lessons come from people you admire, and I could not have been surrounded by a more talented, more interesting, more driven, and generous group of people than the Hopkins lacrosse community — and the Hopkins community itself."
Neil A. Grauer, A&S '69

Neil A. Grauer created the cartoon Blue Jay in 1966 and drew many game day, T-shirt, cap, and bumper sticker cartoons for Henry Ciccarone.

The Johns Hopkins Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute
Tackling the Tough Questions

In February, South Korean scientists announced that they had successfully cloned 30 human embryos. Now that the genies are out of the bottle the cloning issue takes on new urgency. Human cloning is the latest in a series of issues where scientific capabilities outpace society's ability to form a moral consensus. The Johns Hopkins Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute promotes moral reflection and discussion of emerging bioethical issues among scientists, scholars, citizens, and students.

Formed in 1995, the Institute studies the hard questions: How do we balance privacy against the use of medical information to advance research? Should organs be harvested from people who are not yet brain dead, but who have no prospect of regaining cognitive function? To what degree should we be able to "pick our progeny"? How do we safeguard human beings taking part in scientific experiments?

Jeanne Johnson talked with Alex Levi, a New York-based clinical psychologist and University trustee, who chairs the Bioethics Institute's Knowledge for the World capital campaign.

Alex Levi says the Bioethics Institute is "fascinating and futuristic."
Photo illustration by Kathy Vitarelli
What excites you about the Bioethics Institute?

It's fascinating and futuristic. When my family was looking for a way to memorialize my father, Robert Levi, who died in 1995, supporting the Bioethics Institute seemed a perfect way to honor him. He was a visionary who was deeply invested in anticipating future developments and making the tough decisions. As a clinical psychologist, I sometimes work with people who are in the last stages of their lives, so I was already helping people make difficult decisions about the nature and circumstances of their deaths. I recently worked with a depressed couple where the wife was in the last stages of cancer, and they faced many agonizing decisions regarding her death and hospice care. With medical science and technology having such an ability to extend life, families need to confront end-of-life decisions. Many are ill-prepared to do that.

Why is the Institute important to have at Hopkins?

As a premier medical school, hospital, and research center, Johns Hopkins occupies the front lines of the very areas of discovery and compassionate care that give rise to bioethical dilemmas. What is informed consent? What are the parameters of ethical research? Both theoretically and in a practical sense, Hopkins faces questions that aren't easily answered every day.

Through the Institute, Hopkins has a forum for addressing these issues in a way that can also help shape public policy. We already see congressional bills on issues such as stem cell research and we want to make sure decisions are based upon the best facts and moral reflection. We don't take corporate positions, but we want our staff and students to conduct research, expand the knowledge base, and compile facts so that we can think clearly about bioethical issues.

As a community and as a country, we need to form a consensus or at least start talking about ethical issues, particularly if we're going to avoid further splitting society over the morality of scientific and medical decisions. One danger is living in some kind of wild, brave new world where anything goes. The other extreme is trying to turn back the clock and miss out on enormous benefits from biomedical science and technology.

How will a successful campaign benefit the Bioethics Institute?

As the new kid on the block, we need to catch up in funding. We need to raise $7 million more to meet our $21 million goal for endowment to support a faculty professorship in arts and sciences as well as additional professorships in affiliated divisions of nursing, public health, and medicine. We need $3 million more for program support, including funds for faculty innovation and research breakthroughs. We also need a physical home. We have plans for a building on the East Baltimore campus behind the nursing building, but we need a way to pay for the $8 million structure.

There's enormous interest in bioethics, and this important work holds tremendous implications for the future. We want Hopkins to be the place from which the best decisions emerge.

To learn about the Institute, call 410-516-0415.

Michael Kun, A&S '84
Reports of His Death Were Exaggerated

Kun, alive and well. Does anyone know if Michael Kun is alive? That was the plaintive question posed by fans in the customer review portion of who bemoaned the fact that it had been 13 years since Kun had released his critically acclaimed first novel, A Thousand Benjamins, which the Hopkins grad wrote while attending the University of Virginia School of Law. According to rumor, Kun had died from a) a drug overdose, b) a car accident, c) a mountain climbing accident, or d) any other number of calamities.

As it turns out, he was just busy. His explanation? "I really don't have one," says Kun. "Time just flew."

Actually, the former Baltimore lawyer was busy practicing in Atlanta and then in Los Angeles, where he is a partner in the law firm of Jackson Lewis. He had been writing short stories that appeared in Other Voices, Fiction, StoryQuarterly, and Cottonwood, among other periodicals.

Rumors of his demise were put to rest in 2003 with the release of The Locklear Letters, an easy-to-read epistolary novel, mostly containing obsessively written letters to television starlet-turned-hair-color-spokeswoman Heather Locklear of Melrose Place, Dynasty, and T. J. Hooker fame. The letters include everything from magazine subscription requests to copies of protagonist Sid Straw's college newspaper columns, which he mails to Locklear. (Column topics include "People Who've Beaten Me Up" and "Girls Who Won't Speak to Me.") The letters unleash a series of mishaps and catastrophes that destroy relationships and result in several restraining orders and a CIA investigation. The events instigated by the hapless Straw spiral out of control, leading to an often-hilarious comedy of errors evoking sardonic observations on life, love, and the cult of celebrity.

Kun wrote The Locklear Letters as a break from his other books and projects during a week's vacation. "I had heard that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in a week and I just wanted to see if I could do it," he says. "Basically, I just sat down and made myself laugh for a week."

Now Kun is on a roll. He recently signed a three-book deal with his publisher, MacAdam Cage; his next novel, My Wife and My Dead Wife, is due out this month. It's a story about an Atlanta tailor named Hamilton Ashe, who begins to question his relationship with his girlfriend when she decides to become a country-western singer — "not because of her decision," says Kun, "but because her songs are so terrible." Like The Locklear Letters, the book is often funny, with a comedic edge that highlights human quirks and foibles, but it delves deeper into human relationships. Kun plans a re-release of A Thousand Benjamins, and another new book is due to be released in June of next year.

And from all indications, he will live long and prosper. —JJ

In the News...

To mark the premiere of a documentary about his life as a competitive eater, Jason "Crazy Legs" Conti, A&S '93, donned a diving mask and snorkel and vowed to eat his way out of a "popcorn sarcophagus" — a telephone booth-sized structure filled with 50 cubic feet of buttered popcorn. Conti fell short of his goal, but his valiant effort received national publicity. The documentary, Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, was part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Col. Albert Wetzel, Engr '50 (MA), was inducted into the Air Force Hall of Fame and received the 2003 Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Award for his contributions to America's missile system, which include developing and managing the Titan Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Program from 1958 to 1961. His leadership resulted in the decision to make a complete configuration change for Titan II, which remained on alert as an ICBM into the late 1980s.

Cherisse Berry, A&S '98, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, was featured on the Web page of the United States Tennis Association as an exemplary alumna of the Tennis in the Hood program. While a graduate student at Harvard University from 1998 to 2000, Berry taught tennis at the Sportman's Tennis Center in Dorchester, Mass., to youths who could not afford to pay elsewhere.

A Sampling of Upcoming Alumni Events

Baltimore Chapter
Tuesday, July 13
"Eating for the Future" with Professor
Robert Lawrence at the Centre Club

Cincinnati & Cleveland Chapters
Saturday, June 12
BBQ and Baseball: Reds vs. Indians

Denver Chapter
Friday, June 18
Orioles vs. Rockies

Georgia Chapter
Monday, June 28
Nobel Laureate and Professor Peter Agre at the Carter Center

Los Angeles Chapter
Wednesday, June 16
Orioles vs. Dodgers

New England Chapter
Wednesday, July 21
Orioles vs. Red Sox

New York Metro Chapter
Sunday, June 27
"France & The Holy Land" with Dan Weiss, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, at St. Bartholomew's Church

Philadelphia Chapter
Sunday, June 20
BBQ & Baseball: Royals vs. Phillies

Pittsburgh Chapter
Friday, July 16
Annual Maryland Crab Feast

St. Louis Chapter
Saturday, August 7
Annual Maryland Crab Feast

San Francisco Chapter
Wednesday, August 25
Orioles vs. A's

Washington, D.C. Chapter
Wednesday, June 30
CNN: Crossfire taping

California Alumni Tip the Admission Scales

The number of college applications to Johns Hopkins hit another record high of 11,112 this year, but the grand total wasn't the only impressive statistic. Californians comprised a record-breaking percentage of the applicant pool, a culmination of the growing number of applications from the state over the past two years. In 2002, California had the fifth largest number of Hopkins applicants. This year, the golden state is second only to New York.

The increase is not a fluke. California alumni played a pivotal role in creating more interest in Hopkins among the state's college-bound students. "We have always had a dedicated group of alumni admissions volunteers in California," says Kim Vickers, associate director of admissions and alumni relations. "But this year they went above and beyond in supporting our admissions efforts in the state."

During this year's admission process, 748 prospective student interviews were conducted across the country. Of those, 20 percent were in California. In addition, one quarter of all college fairs staffed by Johns Hopkins alumni were held in California. Says Vickers, "This created more visibility for Hopkins in California than any other state."

California alumni volunteers are part of a program called the National Alumni Schools Committee (NASC), administered by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Alumni Association. Established in the 1960s, the NASC has more than 1,000 members worldwide who assist in the annual admissions process by interviewing prospective students and meeting them at college fairs and receptions. Alumni participation at recruiting events has proven a great way to build interest in Johns Hopkins among students across the country.

NASC members have many opportunities to become involved during the admission process, and the flexibility of the program allows members to participate as their schedules allow. For more information on joining the NASC, visit or contact Kim Vickers at or 410-516-8953.

Return to June 2004 Table of Contents

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